TAMPA (WFLA) – Three men were arrested during pro-Cuba freedom protests in Tampa on Tuesday night. Two of them are the first from the area to be charged related to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ new anti-riot law.
The “Combating Public Disorder Act,” HB 1, states a person shall be cited for a pedestrian violation if they “willfully obstruct the free, convenient, and normal use of a public street, highway or road.”
According to TPD, just before 7 p.m., a large group of protesters taking part in a demonstration supporting Cuban protesters attempted to take over the exit ramp at Interstate 275 North at Dale Mabry Highway.
Those charged include Julian Rodriguez-Rodriguez, 30, Maikel Vazquez-Pico, 39 and Evelio Ramirez-Carrasco, 34. Rodriguez-Rodriguez and Vasquez-Pico were both charged with battery on a law enforcement officer. All three men were charged with resisting without violence.
Rodriguez-Rodriguez and Vazquez-Pico are both being held with “Bond TBD at facility” under administrative enforcement for recently signed law HB-1 “Combating Public Disorder.”
Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis held a round table with elected officials on Tuesday, including members of Congress. The gathering at Miami’s American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora was closed to reporters, but the governor later asserted that protests in Cuba were more than just about shortages of vaccines, food and other basic items.
“They are revolting against a corrupt communist dictatorship that has ruled that island with an iron fist for over 60 years, that is responsible for death and destruction, not just on the island of Cuba but really throughout the Western Hemisphere,” DeSantis said at a news conference.
State Attorney Andrew Warren released a statement following the arrests.
“These arrests just reveal that the new ‘Anti-Riot Law’ is pointless—it didn’t prevent an unlawful assembly from taking place, and it didn’t give law enforcement any important new tools to handle it as it was unfolding. The key is, as it always has been, supporting the First Amendment while stopping dangerous activities that threaten public safety.”
DeSantis has dismissed similarities between Black Lives Matter and Tuesday’s demonstrators.
“These are people that are rebelling against a communist dictatorship,” the governor said. He said the demonstrations in Miami were “fundamentally different than what we saw last summer.”
DeSantis, who is said to be considering a run for the White House in 2024, declined a direct response when asked how Democratic President Joe Biden’s administration should handle Cuba policy. But he said federal officials shouldn’t be satisfied with small Cuban government accommodations designed to quell demonstrations.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.